Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall ~ by Nancy Kress


John’s review of: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall (ARC edition) ~ by Nancy Kress

A twisted science fiction morality tale set in the near future containing a strong ecological theme – or maybe it should be considered an ecological warning.

About:   The world has been devastated by a series of ecological catastrophes and in the year 2035 the last few surviving humans are living in a Shell - having been placed there by strange aliens with unknown motives. This Shell is seemingly for protective purposes, but is so constrictive it feels more like a prison.

The survivors try to boost their meager population, but the few children that are born are sickly, defective and infertile. With their numbers dwindling, the aliens introduce a machine into the Shell which allows the survivors to briefly open up time portals, enabling one of them to travel into the recent past to grab babies. The machine cannot be controlled by the humans and the trips are random and fraught with danger; but gradually more and more children are transported into the Shell.

Back in the year 2013, a brilliant mathematician is helping the FBI to investigate a series of strange kidnappings. She is convinced that the kidnappings are not random but follow a complex pattern and she strives to predict when and where the next ones will take place. But as she gets nearer to a solution, a chain of odd natural events start happening that seem to be leading the world towards disaster.

As the mathematician and the Shell dwellers from the future start to converge on a single point in time. The question is: who or what is causing theses odd natural events and how do they link the people from the different eras?

John’s thoughts:   This short novel is creative and has an interesting plot which also benefits from some well-developed characters – thankfully with no stereotypical heroes. These characters are believable, even if their circumstances are fantastic and set in a futuristic world.

I like the way that Kress captures the stresses and strains of the trapped individuals trying to survive in the Shell, and also like how she has them justify their extreme actions in trying to build a future. The question is: can child kidnapping ever be morally acceptable - even if survival of a the human race is in question? I am not sure it is, but there’s some good food for thought and discussion in that question.

As the story builds to a climax, there are some surprises. I’m not sure I actually liked the ending, but I certainly didn’t predict it – and it does leave you pondering some interesting questions. All in all I say this is an imaginative, enjoyable, and easy read. I’d rate it 3.5 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes near-future science fiction or eco-thrillers.

Tachyon Publications; March 2012.

Nancy Kress has written 26 books mostly within science fiction. She has ben awarded four Nebulas and one Hugo for various works. For more about the author see her home page; for her science and science fiction oriented posts see her blog

Thanks for reading.


@parridhlantern said...

this does have an interesting premise, but at the moment snowed under with the IFFP thing of which my favourite is set in 17th century Iceland

John D said...

Hi Parrish,

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